Saturday, April 17, 2010

Care-giving and Advocacy

This needs to be said and more importantly remembered! Who will advocate for you if you cannot? Strange question, isn't it? When we think about having our affairs in order, we consider the importance of having a last will and testament, but what about having a living will? Who do you trust to be your spokesperson in the event that you cannot speak for yourself? Most of us don't even want to venture there, let alone even think about it!

For the past 6 years, I've assumed the role of care-giver to my in-laws. This meant driving some of the key decisions impacting their living situations and more. The importance of advocacy struck me recently when dealing with my mother-in-law's hospitalization for chronic lack of appetite due to advancing Alzheimer's complicated by some underlying health issues. Although she was being closely monitored by a nurse at her residence and then by her doctor, I was the one who told the hospital nurse to feed my mother-in-law pureed food, something it seemed that health care professionals dealing in geriatric issues would automatically explore. I stood at the nurse's station while they entered my request for pureed meals into the computer and it dawned on me that our health care system is just too taxed for any continuity in follow-up. How did I know to do this? Well, for one, I've been informing myself about Alzheimer's Disease and its various stages, what to expect and what to watch for. Secondly, I know my mother-in-law--and well. But most importantly, I would absolutely want someone to do the same act of love and kindness for me if I were unable to advocate for myself.

The twist here is that we never know when that time will be. And while we're young and vital, we dare not even think about it. Please think about it--for yourself and for your loved ones. My previous post, Empowering the Sandwich Generation, touched on this critical subject. You can go online to find a living will template through your government and other social service agencies. We take our wellness for granted. And chances are that we will be well for a very long time. But if circumstances should dictate otherwise, wouldn't you want to be prepared, so that those around you respect your most important wishes and advocate for you in a system that is just too stretched for time and resources?

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